Thursday, January 29, 2009
Whether you need something health(ier) to serve at a Super Bowl gathering, or just a comforting meal after a tough winter week, these are just the ticket. While these aren't quite as quick as picking up meatball subs from Speedy Linguine down the road, they won't weight you down as much. The recipe makes a giant pot—we'll have them for quite a few meals since they freeze and reheat well. I love how the bread soaks up extra sauce, but when you get tired of meatball sandwiches, you could also serve the meatballs and sauce over greens or pasta.
My friend Laura taught me this method of making meatballs—there really is no need to fry them. They cook up in the sauce in half an hour, absorbing the lovely flavors of tomato and wine while they simmer. Turkey works great; they are completely satisfying without unnecessary fat. I also added a bit of ground buffalo since they were selling it at the butcher counter, but you can make these all-turkey, or mix turkey and beef or pork or lamb. Mixing the meatball mixture by hand really is best—it might be a good time to take off (and clean!) any rings you're wearing rather than filling all their creases with raw meat. (Yum!)
You could make this with homemade sauce if you've got it around, but a jar of your favorite brand works as a great base for this quick doctored up version. If you're really pressed for time, just use the jarred stuff, making sure it's really simmering before you add the meat.
Open Faced Turkey Meatball Sandwiches
Serves at least four
Doctored Spaghetti Sauce
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 T tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1/3 bottle dry red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
2 jars spaghetti sauce (I like Barilla)
Saute onions in olive oil in large dutch oven a minute or two. Add mushrooms, saute until onions become translucent. Add tomato paste, stir and let caramelize slightly. Add garlic, oregano and basil, and use wine to deglaze, scraping bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and spaghetti sauce, stir and let simmer 20 minutes while you make meatballs.
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb ground buffalo
3/4 cup panko or breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated hard cheese (romano is good)
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, chopped
herbs—a teaspoon total: try basil, oregano, thyme, fennel seed
salt and pepper
Doctored spaghetti sauce: use recipe above, or do however you like it.
In a large bowl, gently mix all ingredients above (except sauce) with your hands. Try not to overmix. Roll lightly in your hands to form small balls, do not squeeze together too much. Collect meatballs on tray, cookie sheet, or cutting board as you complete them. Add to simmering sauce. Bring sauce to a bubble. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Check one to make sure meatballs are cooked through before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 baby baguette or hoagie roll per person
Meatballs in sauce
Parmagian or Romano for grating.
Slice bread in half, removing some of the bread filling in each half if you desire. Ladle meatballs and sauce onto each bread half. Top with freshly grated cheese. Serve with fork and knife.
Four generations gathered in St. Louis to admire her last week. In between the feeding and playing and rocking to sleep, our talk turned to recipes.
I love how someone's neighbor's method for bread becomes a family tradition, how the recipe on the back of some box, or in some crumbling local compendium ends up getting passed down as a favorite.
We're lucky to have a family cookbook, compiled some time ago in honor of my great grandmother Malvene and great aunt Myrtle. From meatball stroganoff to "jury wafers" named after a recipe torn from a magazine in a jury-duty waiting room, the collection is both dated and wonderful. I have no idea when the recipe for tomato gelée was last used, let alone the one for eingemachs (a sort of beet marmalade that cooks for an entire day.) I confess, the only thing I've made recently is these oatmeal cookies.
So, Molly, here is my favorite family recipe. Some day, you can make a batch for your mom and dad, and they will tell you how we made them at your house when you were five weeks old. They're so good, we just couldn't stop eating them—chewy with a hint of caramel from the brown sugar and just the right amount of spice. Don't forget the secret ingredient—it's the unsweetened cocoa powder that makes them great.
Feel free to halve the recipe unless you plan on sharing.
From the M and M Cookbook
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt (scant)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
Mix all ingredients in order in a bowl. Chill at least 1 hour, then make little balls. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes, let cool on cookie sheet for a minute before cooling on a rack.
Makes 10 dozen tiny cookies.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I'll come out and say it in explicit terms: I hate winter. I hate being cold, I hate that the MTA freaks right the hell out the second there is a drop of precipitation, I hate hat hair, I hate that I appear to return to my primordial reptile roots (or, at least, my skin does) as soon as the central heating gets turned on. Hate.
I love, however, Winter citrus. And while it is not an acceptable substitute for Spring, this California dreamer accepts that sometimes, it is as good as it gets. And, frankly, one could do a lot worse than this seasonal bounty--Tangerines! Meyer lemons! Blood oranges! Little puffs of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and depressing season!
I took my first real stand against Winter this past weekend, when I got my hands on some blood oranges. I had gotten it into my head to make something involving tempeh (pulled pork had been on the previous night's menu, and I was feeling a need to be a bit more virtuous), but wanted to veer away from my traditional Mirin-soy glaze; I wanted something comforting, something almost autumnal, but still bright and brisk. Sort of the culinary equivalent of walking in the deep woods on a crisp but sunny day. So, I snagged some radiant, bloody beauties, some sprouts and some squash, and decided to see what sort of random alchemy I could muster in my kitchen.
I ended up making a warm grain salad with a blood-orange, maple syrup and white balsamic glaze; it worked beautifully upon serving, the dressing's sweetness offset perfectly offset by the delightful tang of some soft, creamy goat's cheese. I will fully admit, however, that it lost a little something when consumed as the next day's lunch--the goat's cheese is vital to the dish really achieving on a flavor level (it really wakes up the citrus), and I didn't pack any. I hope to remedy that next time I make this--I would really like the dressing to stand on its own. My suspicion is that this can be fixed by changing up the acid; I will probably use a dark balsamic next time, as opposed to a fig-infused white balsamic, possibly mixed with a little bit of cider vinegar for kick. A bit of lemon juice might not go terribly amiss, either.
Don't let my conjectures put you off this recipe, however--for an experiment, I was happy with it--its soft, complex sweetness sated the cravings my body was experiencing for something warm and comforting, and it cheered me up immeasurably with its sunny charm. I hope it will do the same for you!
Recipe has been adjusted to reflect my musings.
Blood orange tempeh and kamut salad
1/2 c maple syrup
Juice of 3 blood oranges
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c balsamic vinegar (at this point, i'd recommend avoiding anything fruit-infused or of the white balsamic variety)
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 packet tempeh
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/8" cubes
2-3 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths
8 oz brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, quartered
1/4 c dried cranberries
- Preheat your oven to 350;make the dressing: combine maple syrup, orange juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt.
- Place squash, onion, and sprouts in a roasting dish. Add 1/3 dressing. Cover with foil and roast for 30min. Remove the foil after 30 min, then continue to roast until squash is nice and soft
- Prepare the kamut as per packet directions (typically 3 parts liquid to 1 part grain).
- Cut tempeh into 1" cubes. In a skillet, heat some olive oil and fry the tempeh over medium-high heat until golden brown. Reduce the heat and add 1/3 dressing, stirring until the liquid is nice and syrupy.
- Add thyme to final 1/3 of dressing
- Combine tempeh, vegetables, kamut, and cranberries in a large bowl with remaining 1/3 dressing. Toss well.
- Serve with a garnish of goat's cheese!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
But I've been holding out on you, and I'm going to make it up to you now. This recipe is my go-to, the chicken recipe that all others must be measured by. It's easy. No trussing, no fussing, no basting, no worrying. And it's delicious. Make it for a date, make it for your roommates, banish all fear of cooking when you see how easy this is to master. Then you can buy the Zuni cookbook, if you like, but you just might stick with this method, courtesy of Boston chef Gordon Hamersley.
Here's the main trick. Rub the chicken all over with a paste made from herbs, mustard, and olive oil. Throw it in a pan on a bed of root vegetables (Hamersley calls for potatoes and onions, but I like to add yams and whole heads of garlic.) You don't need to tie it up, you don't need to say a prayer, just throw it in the oven and come back an hour and a quarter later. The bird takes care of itself, and the potatoes benefit from the lovely juices.
Too simple, you say? Well, ok. Two things to keep in mind. First of all, don't skimp on the chicken. Buy a small fresh one, ideally organic and not pumped up with all kinds of hormones. If you're feeding a crowd, do two small chickens! They'll cook more evenly and not dry out, and they're more likely to be flavorful to begin with. I got this lovely white plume Bobo chicken from Jeffrey the butcher (feet on! ack!), though I've also gotten flavorful antibiotic free chickens from the farmer's market, too.
Second, if you happen to have the chicken a day early and you want to improve the flavor even more, dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels and toss some kosher salt on the outside. It's really not hard to do, and does make a difference. Apparently the salt draws moisture from the meat which is then reabsorbed, effectively brining the chicken without waterlogging it. If you don't have time, skip it. Hamersley's original recipe doesn't call for it anyway. If you don't do this, add a little salt and pepper to the mustard paste. When you're all done, take the lemons out and cook the carcass for stock!
Walk Away Roast Chicken, salted Zuni Style
Adapted from Gordon Hamersley and Judy Rodgers
serves three, depending on the size of your chicken
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 whole roasting chicken (about 3-1/2 lb.)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbs. fresh, chopped)
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 Tbs. fresh, chopped)
1 lemon, halved
1 small onion, cut into thick chunks
2 small new potatoes, halved but not peeled
2 yams, peeled and cut into chunks
2 heads garlic, optional
1/2 cup water, stock or wine if you want to make gravy
A day ahead, remove any fat or innards inside the chicken. Pat chicken dry with paper towels—if it's moist, it will steam. Place on a platter or dish. Sprinkle the kosher salt over the chicken and add ground pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Cover loosely and refrigerate. Check the chicken the day you want to cook it, you may want to dry it with some paper towels.
When you're ready to cook, heat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the mustard, thyme, and rosemary. Squeeze the juice from one lemon half into the herb mixture; squeeze the juice from the other half into a small bowl and reserve. Reserve the squeezed lemon halves. Spoon the herb mixture over the chicken, rubbing to coat the bird thoroughly. Put the reserved lemon halves inside the chicken's cavity.
Put the vegetables in a roasting pan. If you're using garlic heads, cut the top quarter-inch off the head, exposing the cloves. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper (and a little additional rosemary, if you like, and toss them with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Scatter the ingredients around the pan to make room in the center for the chicken.
Put the chicken in the pan, breast side up. Cook until the meat is tender and the juices run clear at the thigh, 1–1/4 to 1-1/2 hours. By this time, the potatoes and onions should be tender. Check the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer—it should measure 165 degrees at the thigh.
You can serve straight from the pan after five minutes of letting the bird rest, or fancy it up as follows: transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Pour the juices from inside the chicken's cavity into the roasting pan and transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest. Spoon off and discard as much fat as possible from the juices in the roasting pan or separate with a gravy strainer. Set the pan with the juices over medium-low heat and pour in the reserved lemon juice along with 1/2 cup water, stock, or wine. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cut the chicken into pieces. Pour the pan juices over the chicken and serve.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Much like learning the tango, the first attempt at the eggy, starchy Spanish tortilla is not for the faint of heart. Deceptively simple, it requires strong arms, a steady hand, and a certain appreciation for danger. Simply put, it's the kind of harebrained business that I simply cannot resist trying on a schoolnight.
My interest in eggs is a recent development, and I've spent the last year cultivating it; though Bench is the household's undisputed King of the Scrambled, I must say I've become quite the glad hand at poaching, and I have been feeling of late that I am ready to step up my game. Omelets seemed like a sensible next step, moreso when I discovered that attempting the right kind of omelet presented the very real possibility of completely trashing my kitchen. That kind of a disclaimer is like waving a red flag in front of me; resistance is futile. The description that did me in is by Ximena at Lobstersquad:
"(T)ortillas require nerves of steel. Blood must be summoned, upper lip stiffened, oven mitts worn, and prayers said. Please understand that the Italian method of starting on the stove top and ending under the grill is strictly for little girls. Likewise the French sissified folding thing."
I mean, really--how's a girl like me supposed to resist a description like that?
To my chagrin (and Bench's delight), the tortilla was not quite as much of a production as I'd feared. Yes, it required flipping. And yes, it had a truly terrifying amount of oil in it. But, the prodigious quantity of olive oil involved kept everything well-lubricated and unstuck, which was a godsend when flipping the incredibly heavy cast-iron skillet over during the tortilla-turning process (plus a goodly amount of it drains off before you mix it in with the eggs).
Though success is, in fact, dependent upon truly posting one's courage to the sticking place (hesitate for a second, and you're screwed), at the end of the day it is a potato omelet: no more, no less. I assure you: if I can do this, you can do this. And once you have, it's a tremendous trick to have up your sleeve--its versatility means you can pull it out for just about any meal; plus, it's excellent cold, so you can make it ahead of time. Smother it with ketchup for a fantastic hangover breakfast, or pair it with a salad for a delicious light meal.
I leave you with these pieces of advice:
- Invest in oven mitts.
- Be sure to have lots of paper towels on hand to drain the oil off the potatoes
- Be brave! You can totally do this.
Spanish tortilla (Tortilla de patates)
1-1.5 lbs medium-sized waxy red or white potatoes, peeled
1 medium-sized white or Spanish onion
2 tbsp milk or half and half
tons and tons and tons of olive oil (somewhere around 1/2-3/4 cup)
- Cut each potato into quarters, and then slice thinly (contrary to popular belief, you don't actually need a mandoline, though I'm sure it helps). Place in a towel-lined colander to drain a little.
- Meanwhile, quarter and thinly slice the onion as well.
- In a heavy, large skillet, heat all but two tablespoons of the oil at medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, drop the heat to medium-low, and cook (stirring occasionally) until just tender, about 7 minutes. Add a bit of salt and pepper.
- Add the onions, and keep cooking until everything is soft, about 10-15 more minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the potato mixture on to a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels to drain. Reserve the oil that remains in the pan for later use.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together with a bit of salt. Add the potato mixture, mashing it about slightly to break up the potatoes a bit. Let this mixture sit for about ten minutes.
- Meanwhile! Take the 2 tbsp of oil you set aside earlier and put it in a heavy, 10" skillet (I used my cast iron--I recommend you do the same). Keep at medium high heat until it just starts to smoke. Pour the egg/potato mixture into the pan and flatten it with a spatula until the top is more or less level. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan and running around the edges with a small spatula, until the top has started to set, 6-10 minutes.
- Take a rimless plate that is larger than the pan, place it face down on top of the pan. Using oven mitts, flip it over quickly and turn out the omelet onto the plate. Then, replace the pan on the stove and gently slide the tortilla, uncooked side down, back into the pan. Reduce the heat to VERY low and keep cooking until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 3 more minutes.
Monday, January 19, 2009
A couple of years ago, I was out west on vacation when I got an excited call from Virginia. Matt was at his friend Ramon's, and just had to tell me. Ramon made these awesome vegetables! They were really awesome! He used some really awesome sauce!
Luckily in his enthusiastic state he found out the same of said awesome sauce, and our love affair with Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce began. Thanks to Ramon, chili sauce veggies are a standard weeknight dinner around our place. Sometimes I add rice noodles and bits of mango, sometimes it's just a big mess of eggplant in a wok. It sort of doesn't matter, you could drink this stuff out of the jar. It's quite sweet and not that spicy, great with pork or chicken and a squeeze of lime. The discussion usually goes roughly like this:
Me: "Chili sauce for dinner?"
The rest of the ingredients don't really interest him.
This particular iteration was a winner, though. I was craving a big pile of colorful veggies wrapped in lettuce. I also wanted to try out a technique for chicken recommended by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen. Marinating chunks of chicken in cornstarch and egg white improves the texture and makes a light coating on the chicken bites while thickening the stir fry sauce. I used good organic chicken thighs, some ripe red peppers and crispy green beans, and plenty of chopped scallions, but you could adapt the recipe for whatever looks good at the market. Just make sure to get real Mae Ploy, the other brands aren't nearly as good.
One warning: this is not really dinner party food unless you're going super casual. It's a bit sloppy, and the veggies have a way of slithering out of their lettuce pockets.
Sweet Chili Sauce Lettuce Wraps
serves 2 generously
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg white
canola or other flavorless oil
1 lb green beans, ends removed
1 cup mushrooms
2 red bell peppers
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon prepared lemongrass—you can buy it in a jar!
1/4 cup Mae Ploy brand sweet chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
Romaine or butter lettuce leaves (6 whole leaves)
1/2 lime, squeezed plus lime wedges for serving
Wash lettuce leaves and leave intact, drying on paper towels. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes, place in bowl. Add egg white and cornstarch, stir. Let marinate 20 or 30 minutes in the fridge while you prepare vegetables. Slice green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, and scallions for stir fry. Do not mix. Remove peel from tangerine and slice into bite size pieces, removing seeds.
In a wok or frying pan, saute green beans in a bit of oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until beans begin to wrinkle. Remove beans from pan. Add mushrooms and zucchini to pan, adding oil if pan is dry. Add fish sauce and soy sauce, saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have lost their liquid.
Meanwhile, heat another wok and add oil. When wok sizzles, add chicken. Let cook 2 minutes without disturbing. Add lemongrass. Turn and stir, cook a few minutes more. Add red peppers to vegetable pan (where the mushrooms are), cook over low heat while you continue to cook chicken in hot wok. Add half of the chili sauce to the chicken. When chicken is fully cooked (check a piece), add scallions, tangerine, and all vegetables to the wok. Add remaining chili sauce and Sriracha. Stir and make sure everything is warm. Serve on lettuce leaves with limes, extra Sriracha, and lots of napkins.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I had the incredible good fortune yesterday to score a 10" cast iron skillet for $5. No lie. I was on the prowl for one because I've got it into my head to make a Tortilla Espanola for dinner Monday night, and virtually every recipe I've come across has been adamant in specifying that if you hope to get out of the tortilla alive, you need to cook it in a cast iron skillet. Not being one to flout authority, I figured I'd bite the bullet and heed their advice.
The pan I got advertised itself as pre-seasoned; I didn't believe it for one second, and wasn't going to be satisfied until I'd seasoned it myself. The seasoning of pans is one of those topics where there are as many opinions are there are chefs. Some advocate oiling the pan and then heating it on the stovetop; others filling it with a few tablespoons of lard and baking it at 500 degrees until it's run dry. I prefer a simpler, less scary method:
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Oil the pan using vegetable shortening (you could use lard, too, I suppose. Just use something that's unlikely to go rancid). Lube it up generously, but wipe away any obvious excess.
- Put a rimmed cookie sheet or some cleverly folded foil at the bottom of your oven to catch any drippings
- Place your pan in the oven, upside down, over the cookie sheet/foil and bake it for about an hour. Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly. Repeat as necessary.
Take care of your pan, and it will take care of you!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Winter is tricky. It's freeze-your-face-off cold, and the days are short and dark. It's enough to make anyone crave comfort food. On the other hand, we're all trying to eat a little healthier.
This recipe may not be totally guilt free, but it's pretty impressive on that front. And so rich tasting you only need a few bites. As in risotto, the rice gives off velvety starch, thickening the pudding on its own, with the help of creamy nonfat yogurt. Considering it doesn't call for eggs or cream or even 2% milk, it came out shockingly rich and fudgy, like Mexican hot cocoa frozen in time. No one would ever guess how light it really is.
For me, though, if you're going to eat chocolate, it should really be darker. This pudding lacked the bitter edge of serious chocolate. If you're a milk chocolate fan, then this recipe is for you. But if you like your chocolate intense and deep, consider using really good (expensive) and truly dark chocolate—maybe with a 75% cocoa content. I bet it would be nice with a bit of brewed (decaf) espresso thrown in, too. Yum. For Valentine's day, perhaps?
Or go the other way. It's kind of sad to lose the lovely simplicity of rice pudding by throwing chocolate into the mix. Chocolate overshadows the custardy, nutmeggy flavor of classic rice pudding, to the point where the nubby texture of rice seems out of place. I can't guarantee that this pudding will be perfect without the chocolate, but it's an interesting method to start with. Try dialing back the ginger and increasing the nutmeg, adding raisins, orange zest, etc. Let me know how it goes!
Spiced Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding
Adapted from Martha Stewart
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chips
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1. Make the pudding: Whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Split vanilla bean and scrape into saucepan, add bean too. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat.
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. I love using enameled cast iron for this sort of thing. Add rice; toast, stirring constantly, until edges are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add hot milk mixture; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Add ginger and cinnamon. Cook another 10 minutes or so. If rice is not tender and has already absorbed the liquid, you can add a little more milk or water (or brewed coffee!) and let it absorb the way you do with risotto. Keep in mind that pudding will thicken as it cools—leave it a little loose and liquidy.
3. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Add liquor and chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted. Stir in yogurt. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dessert bowls. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Top with light whipped cream or more greek yogurt. Don't tell anyone it's healthy.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
At Fromaggio in Essex Market, I spied a box of French Puy lentils for eight dollars. Seriously? Eight dollars for lentils? I knew if I brought them home Matt would be unimpressed. Unless, of course, they sprouted into a magic beanstalk.
Luckily, I live near a little Indian market with shelves piled with inexpensive spices (amchoor powder, anyone?) and dried goods. Squelching my desire for a collection of curry powders and mango pickles, I scored a cheaper bag of pretty green french lentils and headed home to look at recipes.
Maybe it's just me, but I'm stingy with my homemade stock. We can only store a few containers of it in our teeny freezer, and I hate to be caught without any. It's hard to deem an unknown recipe stock-worthy. (Remember Elaine carefully budgeting her sponges on Seinfeld? It's like that...sort of.) So I was pleased to realize I could make a huge pot of hearty lentil soup while still saving some stock for a winter cold. I used lamb to deepen the flavor of the tomato broth, and spiked it with a little sake (sherry would work great if you have it.)
In a flash of inspiration before I served this up, I added a bit of homemade pesto to the pot. I save this in ice cube-sized portions in the freezer, and it deepened the flavor nicely.
I hate to give exact times in a recipe for slow cookers. You alone know how hot or slow your machine cooks, and how mushy you like your lentils. In my six-quart Cuisinart slow cooker, this took a long time. You could probably speed it up by cranking up the heat. Or just go about your business and let it cook all night and the next day unsupervised. That's the beauty of these things.
Slow Cooker Lamb and Lentil Soup
Serves at least 4 with leftovers
2 lamb shoulder chops with bone or about 1 pound other stew meat
1 strip bacon, chopped roughly
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 clove garlic, chopped roughly
3 carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon harissa (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or a bunch of fresh basil leaves if you have them
1/2 teaspoon oregano
freshly ground pepper
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes with liquid
3 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 teaspoons sherry or sake or wine
1 cup green lentils
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
Pasta (corkscrews or shells are good)
grated cheese for serving
Salt and pepper
Place first twelve ingredients in the slow cooker. Pour tomatoes over. Fill empty can with water and add that water to slow cooker as well. Add stock, sherry or sake or wine, and lentils, stir, leaving meat on the bottom of the pan. Cook on high one to two hours, depending how hot your slow cooker is. Turn to low and cook at least 8 hours. Check lentils and carrots at this point. If they seem too crisp to you, keep cooking. When ready to serve, remove meat from bones and discard bones. If you like, whir this for thirty seconds with an immersion blender to thicken the broth, or blend a few ladlesfull in a food processor. Leave the rest chunky. Stir in the pesto. Boil water on the stovetop and prepare pasta according to package instructions, a large handful per person is plenty. Place pasta in bowls and ladle soup over, garnishing generously with grated cheese, salt, and freshly ground pepper.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
When I first took a stab at cooking poultry, I did so with a silent promise to myself: Thou shalt take these lessons you learn and ultimately use them to cook a duck. Why this particular piece of fowl was so important to me, I couldn't begin to tell you; why I couldn't bring myself to START with this is no easier to explain. Suffice it to say, it had something to do with compressed air blowers, chinese restaurants, and the general fatty nature of the duck.
Mostly the fatty part, I think. Despite the fact that it is, truly, what makes the duck delicious, I find the sheer volume of fat that comes attached to a duck a little daunting. But, after our little trip to the Essex market, I was determined to be daunted no longer. So, I turned (as I so often do when looking for info about basic technique) to Mark Bittmann, who not only had several excellent tips on roasting duck, but an excellent suggestion for how to solve the fat conundrum: harness the power of steam!
By steaming the duck before roasting, you melt some of the prodigious fat layer, allowing it to drip out of the duck before you commit it to the oven. You're left with a delicious bird (with a significantly more manageable fat quotient) and a cup or two of nicely rendered duck fat, which you can whack in your freezer and use intermittently in place of butter or oil. Steaming the duck also gives you an early opportunity to add flavor to the bird; flavoring the steaming water imparts a subtle flavor to the meat. Since I decided I wanted an asian-style duck (I have a moderate obsession with peking duck), I used star anise, mustardseed and cinnamon; I used the same flavors during the roast itself, and in the sauce/glaze. Hitting the seasonings three times made the taste of the meat unbelievably delicate and luscious.
Being the sensible, frugal girl that I am, I used some of the fat I'd rendered out to roast up the potatoes. Believe me when I tell you that you should try doing that, too. It's not for the faint of heart, but good goddamn, it is delicious.
Roast Cherryaki Duck
1 duckling, 4-6 lb
2-4 c water
2 sticks cinnamon
2 tsp mustard seed
3-4 star anise, whole
2 tsp cinnamon
1 orange, zested and then sliced
1/2 large yellow onion (or one small red onion), sliced
For the sauce:
1/2c cherry preserves
1/2c soy sauce
1/2c chicken stock
1/4c white wine vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 pieces star anise
- Start by steaming the duck on your stovetop--put a rack in a nice, large pan, and then fill it with about 1-2 inches of water. Add spices. Prick the skin of the duck all over with a sharp knife or fork (take care not to prick the meat--you have about 1/4 inch of fat before you hit it), and then place it breast side down on the rack. Set heat to high, cover tightly and steam for about 45 minutes, replenishing the boiling water when it starts to run a little dry. I used my wok for this, wrapped in about eight hundred wasteful (yet effective!) layers of foil. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before doing anything else with it.
- While it's cooling crank up your oven to 375 and start the sauce--put the preserves, soy sauce, honey, cinnamon, star anise, stock, and vinegar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, then drop the heat to keep it simmering.
- Once the duck's cooled a bit, rub the skin (on both sides) with a little kosher salt, orange zest and cinnamon, and stuff the body cavity with sliced onions and oranges. Place breast-side down on a rack in a roasting dish, and baste. Cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the bird). Remove from oven, flip over, baste the other side. Crank your oven to 425, then roast for 15-20 more minutes, until the skin is nice and crispy.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
When Matt and I went to France last fall, we rented a tiny apartment in Montmartre for the week so we could pretend to be locals. Montmartre seems like the Carroll Gardens of Paris: the place where regular folks can actually afford to live, and though it's not quite in the center of things, there are cheese stores and nicer apartments and perfect neighborhood restaurants to brag about. Each day we took the subway to the more central parts of the city to see museums and markets, and while we enjoyed some fancy meals there, our favorite dinner was in a casual place a few blocks from the apartment.
It was at Le Relais Gascon that I had my first French Cassoulet. It was eye-rollingly delicious with creamy beans and meltingly rich meats. But sharing the spotlight was the salad of my dreams. These are serious salads—the menu warns that they are "Salades Géantes". I think we laughed out loud when it arrived in its hulking bowl. Each salad is topped with a mountain of freshly fried, fragrantly garlicy potato slices. Inside, lardons and warm goat cheese, crisp greens and perfect vinagrette. You could order it with tomatoes and green beans, foie gras or sausage, ham, smoked salmon, duck, etc, etc. I've been trying to recreate it ever since.
A trip to Essex market provided the excuse. I picked up three beautiful bits of cheese at Formaggio, and while we could make a whole meal out of that unbelievable cheese, a salad would serve as a good foil. I chose a loaf of bread and some bitter frisée, some cheap red peppers and endive. I added some potatoes for the essential salad topping. To gild the lily, my new best friend Jeffrey the Butcher sold me the duck.
I probably should have sprung for the breast. The magret duck breasts were huge, more expensive than Shiv's entire Long Island duckling. I chickened out (ducked out?), saving my money for our fancy cheese plate, and just chose a leg. I think I've learned tonight that duck legs are good for braising, and for making confit, but really nothing special roasted. Nothing special, except for one thing—the fat. One duck leg provided the perfect amount of amazing, fragrant, musky fat to crisp up our potato slice topping. Divine. But when I try this again, it won't be with the leg.
Not much meat is needed for this recipe, especially if you're serving it with a cheese plate. But go with your own appetite. And feel free to riff on the vegetables—kirby cucumbers are a good addition, or tomatoes if they're in season. Corn cut off the cob would be great. I experimented with a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, a touch of soft goat cheese, and a few blackberries, but your favorite simple vinagrette may work better.
Giant Duck Salad
Inspired by Le Relais Gascon
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 dried chipotle
1 duck leg (or try a breast, cooking time will vary)
2-3 medium waxy potatoes
1 head frisee and 2 heads endive (or substitute greens of your liking)
vegetables for salad: red peppers, cucumber, etc, sliced
vinaigrette (your favorite recipe)
1-2 hours before cooking, break chipotle in to three pieces or so in a small bowl. Pour a half cup of warm (not boiling) water over, let sit five minutes. Rub duck leg with Five Spice and garlic. Place in a sealable plastic bag, add orange juice, soy sauce, balsamic, and honey. Add chipotle with its soaking liquid, seal bag and shake a bit to mix ingredients and distribute the marinade. Marinate an hour or two, turning to coat the duck leg if you remember. Preheat oven to 350. Remove leg from marinade, let excess drip off. Heat an ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron) to low-medium heat, and place leg, skin side down, in it. No grease is needed since the duck will give off fat. Let brown for 10 minutes, then turn and cook five minutes more. Meanwhile, slice potatoes about 1/8" thick, leaving skin on. Add potatoes to pan when browning is complete, turn duck leg skin side down, move skillet to oven. Cook 40 minutes, flip potatoes and turn duck, then cook another 40 minutes or until duck is cooked. Meanwhile place salad and salad vegetables in a bowl, and make the vinagrette. When duck is cooked, let rest a minute. Remove skin and cut meat from the bone into small pieces. Add to salad and toss with vinagrette. Place crispy potatoes on top and serve.
In other P&C news...
Thanks to the magic of Craigslist, I have acquired a digital SLR of my very own! Perfect to celebrate the hundredth post of Pithy and Cleaver (and the recent birth of my baby neice!) Please bear with me as I learn how to use it.
We celebrated the milestone by having brunch at Spitzer's Corner and then taking a field trip to the Essex Street Market (also known as Shiv's New Favorite Place Ever). Our first stop while there was Jeffrey's Meats, an institution that's been filling the Lower East Side's butchery needs for more than 75 years. The shop (booth 36 at the market, if that helps) is run by the charming, eccentric Jeffrey himself, who flirted shamelessly and gifted us with goat's cheese as we chatted with him about the duck products we were after. Unsurprisingly, we walked away happy--I with a whole duckling (everything but the quack!), Maggie with a gorgeous leg--and charmed by the promise that when we next came by, we could even get the quack, if we'd just call ahead.
Admittedly, I'm trying to live quack-free these days, so I probably won't be taking advantage of that offer. I will, however, be cooking the bejiggety out of that duck tomorrow night (as will Maggie); watch this space to find out the outcome of our Adventures in Waterfowl!
Here's to a hundred more, a thousand more, a zillion more!
P.S. Has anyone else heard about PETA's new campaign to rebrand fish as "sea kittens"? Does anyone find it as bizarre as I do? Like, sufficiently bizarre that you're not sure whether or not it's a joke?
Thursday, January 8, 2009
It's January, and I think we're all feeling it. A bit too much sugar (I'm looking at you, peppermint brownies), a little too much bubbly (though this was a great discovery), and the first long rainy trudge back to work. And it's really just the beginning of winter. In these situations, colorful vegetables help.
Something is always broken in our tiny East Village home. Water drips from all corners of the ceiling when it rains, the chimney smokes until you can't breathe, and the sliding "doors" to the bedroom don't QUITE close. This week, as soon as it went down below freezing outside, the thermostat went on the blink. It was cccccold, so I really wanted to crank the oven on and leave it on a long time. (I suppose I could have really warmed myself up by doing an exercise video, but really, I wasn't feeling that virtuous.)
This recipe scored on both the vegetable and hot oven counts, plus it promised to use up the last few cups of pomegranate juice lurking in my fridge from a long-ago brunch. The recipe called for pomegranate molasses, which I fully intend to try someday when I can snag a cheap bottle, but cooking down juice on your own works fine. Heeding the warnings on Epicurious, I cooked the carrots halfway before adding the sweet glaze. It caramelized up nicely and didn't set off the fire alarm. (Well, I had already unplugged the fire alarm. That thing goes off if you cough in our apartment, and it's really loud.)
These are really zingy, with really bright flavors. They're not your regular sleepy roasted root veg. The cardamom and cumin are a strong foil for the fresh sweetness of pomegranate, mint, and basil. It's a little loud, as winter vegetable dishes go, but packs a welcome vitamin punch. Which might be what we all need.
Pomegranate Spiced Carrots
adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves two generously as a side dish
2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup orange juice
olive oil for roasting
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
2 pounds medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (optional, I didn't have them.
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F. Put carrots in roasting pan, sprinkle with olive oil, toss to coat. Roast carrots 30 minutes, stirring once. Meanwhile, pour pomegranate and orange juice in a small saucepan. Boil to reduce by half. Mixture will be not quite thick. Add ginger, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and pepper to pomegranate mixture. After carrots have cooked 30 minutes, reduce heat to 350°. Toss carrots with glaze and roast until carrots are tender and liquids are reduced to glaze, stirring twice and mixing in water by tablespoonfuls if needed to prevent burning, about 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 375°F oven 10 minutes before serving.)
Transfer carrots to platter. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds (if using), pine nuts, basil, and mint over carrots and serve.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So, despite what you might think, my New Year's menu was not all about sugar and booze--I actually made something with nutritional value! You know. To ring in the year right. After much deliberation, I decided that I needed something that fit the following criteria:
- Vegetarian-friendly (my veg friends have grown weary of hummus).
- Finger-sized (we had no plates).
- Resplendent in some sort of cheese product.
*Cue the lightbulb over my head*
I cobbled together a filling of ricotta cheese, roasted garlic, and chopped fresh basil; it was sufficiently pleasing that I'm considering making some ravioli out of it, or possibly smearing it all over my toast. I also made about four times as much filling as I'd bought zucchini--be ye not so stupid! I strongly advise that you go for the gusto and grill up more zucchini than you think you might need--not only will you probably have just enough, but if all else fails, you can save it as a snack or put it on a sandwich.
Also, use a mandoline to slice the zucchini if you have any regard for your fingers at all.
Really, though, just be sure to make enough. We ran out, and it almost got ugly.
Zucchini rolls with roasted garlic ricotta
5-6 medium-sized zucchini
Splash of white wine vinegar
For the filling:
1c ricotta cheese
1 head garlic (you’ll be roasting this, so don’t freak out immediately)
1 small handful basil, chopped finely
Juice of ½ lemon
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the top off your garlic and drizzle it with olive oil. Wrap in foil (wrap tightly, but leave some head room at the top) and bake until soft and melty—about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile…cut off the ends of the zucchini, then slice it as thinly as you can (I understand a mandoline would be tremendously useful here; I will let you know when I’ve had a chance to test that theory). Brush each side lightly with oil and then grill over medium heat (flipping a few times) until it’s slightly translucent and very pliable.
- Place cooked zucchini in a large bowl, covered with a kitchen towel. Splash on a little white wine vinegar, toss gently and leave to steam for a few minutes.
- While the zucchini steams, make the filling—toss the ricotta, basil, lemon juice, olive oil and roasted garlic (which should squeeze out of its papery skin gorgeously once it’s cooled) with a little salt into the bowl of your food processor—whiz away until it’s well-mixed and smooth!
- To assemble: place about a teaspoon of filling on the end of each zucchini strip, then gently roll it up. You don’t need to affix it with a toothpick, though you certainly could if you wanted to. Serve with balsamic drizzle and a dusting of chopped basil—if you’re so inclined!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Anyone else need a vacation to recover from their vacation?
If you're not quite ready to face work yet, maybe you and I should take off for somewhere sunny. Aruba, anyone? Maybe the Dominican Republic?
In college, my a cappella singing group was hired to perform for a week at a Club Med in the D.R. I had never been to a tropical resort before, and pushed the group to do something more adventurous/cultural with our January break. Of course, I was wrong, and singing for our all-you-can-eat suppers (and a flipbook's worth of pina coladas) was the perfect way to spend a winter week after exams. It was heavenly, in the way that only long days on the beach with great friends, trashy novels, and unhealthy beverages can be.
If you can't make it there, maybe this salad will help ease the pain.
My mom saved the recipe from an old Gourmet magazine, and though it's a little dated, it's kind of fun. She added some toasted cashews, and subbed romaine for the cabbage. The touch of curry powder makes the dressing bold and warm, if not exactly tropical.
Pina coladas may not be part of your New Year's resolutions, but if you have one, I won't tell...
Island Pork Tenderloin Salad
from Gourmet (May 2003)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds total) See note below.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3 navel oranges
5 ounces baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
4 cups romaine lettuce
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews, toasted
2 ripe California avocados
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.
Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140°F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155°F while standing.)
Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.
Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, cashews and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges, and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges. Pour any juices from skillet over pork.
NOTE: Be careful to buy pork tenderloins that don't have too much saline injected in them. My mom likes the ones from Trader Joe's, and there are probably others, but many supermarket brands are quite waterlogged. Then be careful not to overcook.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
First of all: Happy new year! We just woke up.
I was going to write about these cookies yesterday, but time got away from me (glitter waits for no blog!) and before I knew it, people showed up and then it was 2009 and there were fireworks and champagne. Years come and go so quickly here!
So! Cookies. I found these in an issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that I read as we flew out to visit Bench's parents (I may not like her shows, but I will grudgingly admit that her magazine ain't half bad). I didn't stand a chance: Dark chocolate AND crystallized ginger, in cookie form? Sign me up! I could barely wait to get back from the windy city to give them a try.
This is the first cookie recipe I've used that requires baking chocolate; it does not, however, require a double boiler, so the fiddly quotient remains pretty low. In addition to the baking chocolate, it requires a half cup of good cocoa powder--enough to render the dough the driest I've seen. Fortunately, it stands up to a good manhandling (I ended up kneading the dough, more than stirring it), and comes together really well once you start rolling it into little balls. So, don't fret if your dough doesn't quite seem dough-like in the bowl. It meant to do that, really.
They're called crinkles because of the cracks and patterns that form as they bake; I think it's also an apt description of the cookies themselves, which manage to be both crispy and chewy at once. Also delicious. Never forget the delicious.
Dark chocolate and ginger crinkles
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, January 2009
1 stick (4oz) butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 c)
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/2c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 c crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2c mini chocolate chips
1c confectioners' sugar (for rolling)
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.
- Meanwhile! Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (except the ginger and chocolate chips) until well combined.
- Whisk the eggs into the butter/chocolate mixture--be VERY CERTAIN that it's nice and cool (i.e., room temperature), otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Then, add the wet mixture to the dry until incorporated. Like I said, it gets a bit dry, so don't be afraid to get in there with your hands and really mash things around.
- Add the ginger and chocolate chips.
- Place the confectioners' sugar into a wide, shallow bowl. Form the dough into 1-inch balls and then coat with confectioners' sugar. Bake on cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment for about 15 minutes, rotating the pans after ten minutes or so.
- When they're done, let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to racks to cool all the way.